Tuesday 17 November 2015

Just people

I wrote this post on Sunday morning when I was feeling a little weary and heavy-hearted. I wasn't sure that I would post it as it felt a little soon and writing it was more of an outlet for me to process my thoughts, but I decided this morning I would post. 

Along with most of the world, I've been shocked and saddened by the events of the past days. The horrific attacks in Paris and Beirut are difficult to fathom. I'm not going to comment directly on those as I don't feel that it's my place to do so here.

What I've read on news sites and social media in regards to these attacks have dismayed me. Vitriol, hatred and anger. I, too, despise the scum that perpetrate these acts. So, so much. But to me, those monstrous vile creatures that found sport in murdering innocent people are not representative of Muslims. It truly upsets me though when people believe so deeply that there is no difference between the monsters who pick up a gun or detonate a bomb and the more than a billion Muslims who are just trying live their everyday life.

 I live in a Muslim country and have done so for the past 3-and-a-half years. In that time, my neighbours have been Muslim. My kids' teachers have been Muslim. Our friends have been Muslim. The people we deal with day in and day out have been Muslim. In those 3-and-a-half years, I have been treated with kindness, generosity and respect. I have not been asked to convert, I haven't been attacked for my beliefs. Nothing has been forced upon me nor really expected of me, except for the return of respect that has been granted to me.

The shops in Dubai at the moment have more Christmas trees and baubles and tinsel than you can imagine. I can buy a ham and pineapple pizza from the supermarket if I want to. I can stop by a bar and have a drink if I so wish. My Catholic friends regularly attend mass at a church built on land gifted to them by the Muslim rulers. My Hindi friends go to the temple and hang their Diwali lights. There are no Muslims here calling me an 'infidel' or trying to 'strip me from my rights' or force me to conform to their ideals. Though if you believe what you see on Facebook or in the mainstream media, that is what they'd have you believe is the motive of every Muslim.

My kids, thankfully, are unaware of the attacks over the weekend (Friday is our weekend). Both Paris and Beirut are places that they know of, where their friends are from, where they dream they might visit one day. And thankfully, they haven't been exposed to anti-Islamic sentiment (nor anti-Christian or anti-Western sentiment for that matter). It is impossible to protect them from the news of conflict in Syria and Iraq (and Yemen and Libya) and they are aware that some of their friends and teachers are unable to return to the place of their birth due to the war. They've also seen the pictures of refugees treading the same path from Hungary to Germany where just a few weeks earlier they spent their summer holiday.

To them, Muslims aren't evil terrorists looking to destroy their way of life, in fact it's quite the opposite. A Muslim is the mum who hugs them tightly with a greeting in the school playground, a Muslim is the teacher who patiently explains multiplication and division, a Muslim is the friend they skip with in the playground and share secrets and dreams with, a Muslim is the doctor who gave them medicine and made them feel better, a Muslim is the nurse who snuck in a tub of jelly and ice cream when the hospital food was yucky. To them, Muslim people are just people.

To me, a Muslim is the friend that wiped away the tears when I involuntarily cried after receiving an appointment for a tumour biopsy, a Muslim is the mum who looked after my sick child while I raced to school to collect her, a Muslim is a woman who spent all day cooking food she thought I might like to welcome me into her home, a Muslim is the man who stopped during his busy day and changed my flat tyre in 48 degree heat, a Muslim is the parent who wishes me a happy Diwali and a happy Christmas with an enormous smile, a Muslim is the teacher who passionately educates my child, a Muslim is the lady on the plane who held my baby boy so I could eat my meal. To me, Muslim people are just people. I feel lucky to have people in my life of different faiths and races and nationalities, who put that all aside and treat each other as humans, as friends.

The scum who kill and maim and terrorise in the so-called name of Islam have zero in common with the Muslims I know. The people that I know here are sickened by the violence that is perpetrated in their name. A lot of them personally affected in some way or another.

So, for those you reading who live in Australia, US, UK, Canada or Europe. I ask you not to respond to evil and hatred with more hatred. The only way to eradicate and fight the evil is to join together, as humans, if not you're allowing the monsters victory.

Friday 13 November 2015

Stormy weather

Yesterday, we awoke to a one of those very rare overcast, rainy Dubai days. They literally only happen a couple of times a year, but when they do there is so much excitement!

As we arrived at school, there were shouts of "I think I felt a drop!", "It's so cold!" (it was about 28 degrees and 7.30am), "It's so dark!" I left them in their classrooms, their classmates buzzing with as much excitement as them.

As I drove home, a light shower started. I saw the windows of the car next me all come down and hands poke out of each one trying to feel a drop. As I drove past I saw an Arab family with their faces bright with delight, smiles sparkling in the dreary weather. I couldn't help but smile myself, loving that a few drops of rain could bring such wonder!

I turned on my windscreen wipers (after I remembered how to turn them on) to discover that they'd almost disintegrated over the summer from sand and extreme heat. They flipped and flopped over the windscreen making it harder to see than when I first turned them on.

I had expected that rain would be gone by the time I collected the kids, but it hung around for most of the day.

Today we woke up to sunshine, the city was sparkling as the rain had washed away the sand that covers everything all of the time. It felt clean and fresh. I love this time of the year, it's our reward for  five months of being stuck inside.

Wednesday 11 November 2015

The ancient world of the 1980s

Last weekend, my kids were excitedly telling me about this new movie that was coming out. "It has these kids and one them has my name!" says one. "There's a dog, too, with a bird for a friend!" says the youngest.

"Oh the Peanuts movie, yes, I saw that was coming out." I replied. "The dog's name is Snoopy and the bird is called Woodstock."

The kids stopped dead. "How do you know about it?" they gasped. Amazed that I might know anything useful at all.

"Peanuts is as old as the hills. I used to have a Snoopy when I was your ages. In fact, I think I even had two."

My kids are always amazed when I've seen a cartoon they like. "They had Scooby-Doo when you were a kid??!" or "You've seen Tom & Jerry before?!" They can't believe that something they think is so cool could've been around so long ago.

"Did you watch it on an iPad?" Darbs asks. This is when the eldest finally pipes up: "They didn't have iPads back then. They didn't even have mobile phones when mum was a kid."

This information seems truly amazing to them. No mobiles? How on earth did we survive? So I tell them tales about answering machines and home phones and just turning up and hoping you'd run into someone. About phones books and remembering people's numbers. About how their uncle was super cool and had a car phone. "But why was the phone stuck in the car?"

I tell them that I didn't have the internet and we had to write letters on paper, put a stamp on them and get the postman to deliver them. About taking photos on film and taking the roll to the shop to get developed. "But what if you didn't like the photos?"

Looking at their faces there was a mix of confusion and wonder like I was telling them something about a mystic ancient world.

After a moment, Goosey pipes up, "But how did you look things up if you couldn't Google it?"

So, I  launch into a tale of libraries and encyclopaedias. "Grandpa bought a set of encyclopaedias, which is a collection of big books filled with information. He bought them in 1967 so the information, especially the populations were a bit out of date, but that's all we had."

"What if you had to print out a picture for your project?" she asks.

"Well, we  photocopied them from a book at the library (in black and white, of course) or sometimes I went to travel agents and asked for old brochures," I explained.

I look over at Goosey who's tapping on the laptop to see she's made a Powerpoint presentation about why she hates her sister. Scolding her for the subject, but admiring her work - "I do like those swirly bits"

"They're called transitions, Mum."

They are indeed.

Sunday 8 November 2015

Grease isn't the word

One of the things I've looked forward to being a mum, is sharing my favourite things with my kids - books, movies, music. I've always wanted to share the things that I've loved, that have made me happy, that have shaped me. I know I'm not alone in this, I've heard so many other parents say the same thing.

The thing is, no much how much you love something or expose your kids to something, doesn't mean they're going to love it.

Last week, my eldest was home sick. We don't get a lot of time together, just the two of us, so I had the brilliant idea of watching a movie together. I imagined us snuggling up on the couch and sharing a cherished moment. Passing something wonderful on to my eldest. Something that would ignite something in her. The only thing was, which movie to watch? I wanted something that the younger kids weren't ready to share in yet, something I could share just with her. Something I adored, something I thought she'd adore. Little Women? Anne of Green Gables? There was a chance they'd be a little old fashioned, a little sedate.

Of course, Grease! Music, dancing, colour, energy. A blonde girl from Sydney, Australia transplanted to a new world. There was  no chance she wouldn't love it. Easy peasy.

Eagerly, I put it on. She watched. She was quiet, except for the odd comment "Are they smoking?! At school!!", "Those boys really like to misbehave, why do they want to hang out with them."

The credits began to roll. "Sooooo, what did you think?" I asked.

"Yeah, it was OK."

OK?! It was like it was Christmas morning and she'd opened up a gift I'd being dying to give and she just tossed it aside after opening it. I wanted to grab it and say "Well, you can't have it then!"

Instead, I have to suck it up and accept my kids aren't going to love everything I love. You can't plan those "cherished" moments. There's no accounting for taste!
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